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Shooting Through: Campo 106 escaped POWs after the Italian Armistice Paperback – 19 November 2019
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'From Alamein to the Alps, this book tells a tale of captivity, survival and escape, shining a light
on the o; -neglected experiences of Australian POWs in Italy.'
Author of Australian soldiers
in Asia-Paci; c in World War II
&lsquo oroughly researched and beautifully written, Kittel explores the ANZAC narrative from a
fresh perspective. Insightful and compelling, Kittel's account eschews glori cation and instead
illuminates the experiences of ordinary men in extraordinary circumstances.'
Michelle Scott Tucker
Author of Elizabeth Macarthur:
a life at the edge of the world.
'Its strength lies not in emotion, but in presenting a window into the soul and decision making
of the POWs in their relationships with themselves, authorities and the Italian populace... I rate
this as the best account of the overall POW experience that I have read.'
Major (Retired) Warren Farmer
- Publisher : Echo Books (19 November 2019)
- Language : English
- Paperback : 398 pages
- ISBN-10 : 064855404X
- ISBN-13 : 978-0648554042
- Dimensions : 15.24 x 2.26 x 22.86 cm
- Best Sellers Rank: 134,561 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
- Customer Reviews:
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Top review from Australia
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The use of a specific Australian slang term for the title takes the reader straight to an era well before the internet and globalisation changed our world. The sub title ‘Campo 106 escaped POWs after the Italian armistice’ defines the era as WW2 and the place as Italy. The photograph of a group of rather hunky and determined-looking bronzed Aussies flanked by snow-covered peaks and the Mattmark Hotel tells us to expect tales of their adventures in unfamiliar and challenging terrain.
The small photo on the back cover, of a thoughtful young woman considering the contents of a picture or a document, conveys another theme of the book. This was Katrina Kittel’s challenge as a mature woman, revisiting her own childhood and seeking to understand some of the forces shaping her father’s life. Her opening and closing chapters frame this quest. The image is purely evocative, as a photo within the book reveals the young woman’s identity as the wartime Italian teenager Carla Bonello who now lives in Milan.
The words on the back cover neatly summarise the book’s content:
In September 1943, Italy capitulated to the allies. Seizing the moment, Australian and New Zealander prisoners of war walked out of Italian rice farms dotted across the Piedmont plain west of Milan.
Escape, for most, was easy. But what came next, the evasion phase of their war - the weeks and months on the loose, foot-slogging to the frontier, identifying friend from foe, scraping up a feed, weighing up needs for shelter and the dangers for Italian helpers, discovering the breadth of the Italian resistance - was in all likelihood more taxing and nagging on their resilience than the longer periods spent within prison camps.
Drawing on first-hand accounts and archival records, Katrina Kittel weaves the stories of escaper groups through time and theme to reveal key evasion rotes and the outcomes that befell them.
Three testimonials then assure us that this book is well worth reading.
For four years, intermittently, I have lived through the gestation of ‘Shooting Through’. Its research and drafting was already well advanced when Katrina Kittel first asked me to look at some early chapters. She was grappling with how to create a narrative out of a mass of detailed research about a large number of captured soldiers assigned as workers to around 30 Italian rice farms forming the administrative unit known as Campo 106. How to shape and structure this material was a challenge.
Now that the printed book is finally held in my hands I congratulate the author for a fine achievement. Her work over so many years has paid off. ‘Shooting Through’ makes a truly valuable and original contribution to our military and cultural history. It does justice to the source material, the experiences of the author’s father and the complexities of the men’s lives, during and after World War 2. A page-turning book has been forged from a mass of detail about names, geographic places and military units.
I read ‘Shooting Through’ to absorb its ‘whole’, its structure and its ‘intent’, but its finer details will be of great interest to the descendants of the men concerned. Finding mention of their relatives within the book will require a bit of page-turning, as the index has an unusual indexing format, using chapter numbers and not page numbers.
Humorous anecdotes and the use of telling ‘snippets’ from war diaries, letters and personal interviews convey a wonderful sense of the characters and places encountered in this book. Escapers used an interesting variety of transport modes – trains, buses, bicycles, even walking along in plain sight. All readers will be constantly amazed at the obvious resourcefulness of the Australians and the generosity of so many Italians. Both groups, former enemies in warfare, showed courage despite their uncertainties over who could be trusted during the shifting alliances of 1943.
While the frequent use of colourful Australian slang brought that wartime era to life, some poetic and evocative language is also sprinkled through various chapters. For example, Chapter 15 begins with the words ‘Near the end of September, an approaching northern winter sent chilly calling cards to the plains’. In Chapter 17: ‘Peaks pierced mercilessly through sliding clouds, mist flopped like dry ice on sunken shoulders’ and ‘Col dragged his step like a dishevelled delinquent entering detention’. These turns of phrase greatly enhanced the book as a reading experience.
The 40 (unnumbered) pages of black & white illustrations add an invaluable dimension to the story. Two maps help too. The first map shows the location of the various rice farms on the Piedmont plain which made up the complex known as Campo 106. Milan, tucked away in the bottom right hand corner of the second map, anchors the geography in the mind of the reader, showing the wider Piedmont plain area, from the river Po to the Swiss border. Excitingly for me, my first trip to northern Italy in 2018 brought this environment vividly to life, although I travelled into the Swiss Alps northeast of Milan, via the eastern shore of Lake Como and the Bernina Express.
‘Shooting Through’ is an important book for the large Italian community in Melbourne and elsewhere in Australia. It resonated with me too, as a daughter of a young Australian ex-soldier who had served in the Middle East. In the immediate post WW2 years we lived in Brookvale, at that time an Italian market-gardening area in the Northern Beaches area of Sydney, and our neighbours across the road were the Paolas. This book made me think back. We all lived through the start of multicultural Australia and, to this day, I’ve never heard that Mr Paola’s WW2 background in Italy was ever an issue with his Aussie neighbours.
‘Shooting Through’ has yet another claim to broad historic significance. This was recognised by the ABC’s 7pm television news in October 2019, which gave extensive coverage to the funeral of 101-yr-old Bill Rudd, a grandson of EW Cole of Melbourne’s famous Cole’s Bookshop and another POW escaper in Italy.
‘Shooting Through’ is so much more than a military history. As Professor Peter Monteath wrote in his Foreword, ‘this book is not just a remarkable tale, it is a true one. It defies the imagination, and it satisfies it too’.